Self-Portrait as Mountains Surrounding a Dry Lakebed

posted Aug 27, 2013

Forget that no one asks to be here, fault & collision.
          Forget that I seem incapable of suffering, am
                    liable to break. The word fragile, the word

impassable, forget words simple, stranded as bones
          I cannot swallow. Begging & tenor, the mono-
                    chrome Flats as tender ice Earth seems to be

curving away. What isn't snow is salt. What isn't
          light is blinding. What isn't language is flesh
                    cut of the moon slowly rolling. A dying

lake can never recite every night every name
          every star a blade dulled against another
                    ox's rib cage. Let there be no cairn

to the jagged trail of wagons. No line no child
          draws in the sand. No, picture lonely more
                    precise. I have seen the smallest ones

urged first with gaunt & watering cheeks
          to the bodies of the dead, crying forgive me
                    father, as mother turns away to chew

his last shoelace. The fire will roar but I cannot
          stop the freeze, her turn, the sleep she'll sleep
                    without feeling both feet burn.

Char that I never sorry to say I plead. Winds
          from such a height they never end. Winds
                    from such a height I never asked.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of In the Carnival of Breathing, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. Her poems have been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, scholarships to the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers' Conferences, an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize, and have appeared recently in Ninth Letter, Seneca Review, Third Coast, Best New Poets, and on Verse Daily. She teaches at the University of Utah, where she is poetry editor for Quarterly West.